Some jobs are safer than others. In fact, some jobs have such significant occupational hazards that the people who work them are far more likely than others to develop a specific kind of illness and require workers' compensation. This is just the case with firefighters, whose job requires them to battle burning materials that often includes chemicals and other toxic substances. This is why Missouri has a special law for claims of disability for our state’s firefighters who are dealing with a small set of diseases and cancers after a lengthy time on the job.
Occupational Hazards for Firefighters in Missouri
The obvious occupational hazards that firefighters have to deal with on the job are the flames. However, over the long term, firefighters are far more likely to face personal injuries that are related to cancer than to burn injuries.
In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) teamed up with the United States Fire Administration to conduct a long-term study of the health issues of nearly 30,000 firefighters in several major cities. The study found that firefighters had a higher rate of cancer diagnoses and deaths than the average U.S. population, as well as a much higher rate of malignant mesothelioma.
The cancers with the most alarming rates among firefighters were digestive, oral, respiratory, or urinary cancers, which is likely connected to the toxic smokes and materials that firefighters have to deal with on a daily basis, and which inevitably gets inhaled despite all of the protective equipment that firefighters use.
Missouri’s Presumptive Disability Law for Firefighters
Because of the increased risk and the public interest in keeping firefighters safe, Missouri’s disability law has a unique section, Missouri Statute 87.006, that only works for firefighters. This section says that, if any firefighter gets diagnosed with a certain set of cancers or diseases after working as a firefighter for five years, there’s a presumption that the injury was suffered while in the line of duty.
This presumption shifts the burden of proof from a suffering firefighter to another party, which is hugely important in a case claiming disability. Instead of an injured firefighter having to show that the disease they’re suffering from came from their job, this is presumed. It is then up to the other side in the case to show that the injury happened off duty.
Unfortunately, the presumption is strictly construed and only applies to claims of disability that impact the computation of a firefighter's retirement benefits. The presumption does not apply to workers' compensation claims.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Missouri is not the only state in the U.S. to have laws that presume that the source of a firefighter’s long-term illnesses happened on the job. However, firefighters are one of the only professions with the benefit of having such a presumptive disability law – despite occupational hazards that put certain workers at a significantly higher risk in other fields, there are few laws that protect them like the presumptive disability law for firefighters.
This makes having a workers’ compensation attorney like those at the Smith Law Office all the more important. Call our St. Joseph law office at (816) 875-9373 or contact us online for the legal help you need to make sure you get the compensation you need after a workplace injury.